Two Afghan Girls Waving An Afghan Rug

Customers’ Guide to Afghan Rugs: What you Need to Know Before Buying An Afghan Handmade Rug?

As you are here, it seems that you are looking to buy an Afghan rug, but because of the little information available, you are confused and lost. Even though most rug sellers say the material and the knot density are the most important quality of handmade rugs, knowing just this much is not enough. For example, Is the high knot density good? What type of Wool is good? What choices do I have? In this guide, I have tried to simplify everything to help you learn about Afghan rugs and differentiate between the different qualities of Afghan rugs.

So, the first important thing is to know what an Afghan rug is?

Table of Content

What is an Afghan Rug?

A handmade rug that originated from Afghanistan is called an Afghan rug. These rugs can be Turkmen, Baloch, or any other type of oriental rugs. Because there are many tribal groups in Afghanistan, each having its carpet design and weaving techniques, one cannot classify a specific carpet pattern as Afghan.

It is also important to know that rugs, similar to Afghan rugs, are produced in Pakistan, Iran, Central Asia, and vice-versa.

Where are Afghan rugs made?

Most of the Afghan rugs are produced in the northern provinces of Afghanistan; Andkhoy city in Faryab is one of the well-known places where most Afghan rugs are made. The same way Balkh, Kunduz, Samangan, and Sheberghan produce most of the Turkmen rugs of Afghanistan. Technically the artisans in these regions specialize in various types of Turkmen carpets.

Coming to the central parts of Afghanistan, artisans in Bamyan and Ghazni provinces produce most of the modern rugs and kilims. Additionally, in recent years, after the return of the Afghan migrants from Iran, the artisans brought with them the art of Persian rugs.

Artisans in Adraskan and Shindanda Districts of Herat province weave the famous Adraskan Kilim rugs.

Finally, Baluch artisans in southwest provinces of Kandahar, Nemrooz, and Farah provinces weave the Baloch or Balochi rugs.

How is An Afghan Rug Made?

The Wool goes through many processes to become an Afghan handmade rug. Explaining these processes will need a separate article, and you, as a customer, do not need to know all of the details. So here I have provided a beautiful video that explains how Afghan handmade rugs are produced.

What Are Afghan Handmade Rugs Made Of?

Afghan rugs are made of three elements: Warp (Base), Pile (Surface), and Dyes. First of all, let us start by explaining each of these elements.

Illustration of Warp and pile on Afghan rug
Illustration of Warp and Pile

The pile is what you see on the surface of the rug. When yarn is knotted around the warp, the surface of the carpet is created. Afghan carpet weavers use wool and silk as the primary material for the pile of the rug.

Warp is the rug’s base; it consists of vertical lines of yarn used to make knots around them. Cotton is usually used as the base material in Afghan rugs; however, some have a wool or silk base.

The dyes make those beautiful designs on Afghan rugs. The artisans dye the wool using natural or chemical dies and then use dyed yarn as a pile to create knots that become the rug’s design.

Since almost all Afghan rugs have a cotton base, the pile (surface) becomes one of the critical quality factors of Afghan rugs.

Material

When you read the information about a rug that says “wool rug,” it usually refers to the surface (pile) material. There are four types of wool commonly used in Afghan rugs: Ghazni Wool, Merino Wool, Welayati Wool, and Belgian Wool. Other types of wool are used in Afghan handmade carpets, but since they are not common, we only focus on these four types.

Each of these wool types determines the durability, knot count per square inch, and softness of a rug. I suggest using these three characteristics to decide which type of wool rug is right for you.

1. Ghazni Wool

Ghazni wool is well-known wool used in Afghan rugs. The wool comes from the Ghazni area but is not limited to this area. What distinguishes this wool from the other types of wool is the spinning and dying process that it goes through. After the wool is sheared and washed, it is spun by hand. In the hand spinning process, the artisans try to thin the yarn by spinning the wool so hard. After the wool becomes yarn, the yarn is dyed with natural dies. As a result of the hand-spinning process, some parts of the thread absorb less dye and some more. This defect creates the unique effect called the Abrash effect.

Rugs made of Ghazni wool are durable, beautiful, and have the distinguishing Abrash effect, but their surface is not soft compared to other wool rugs. Also, since the yarn is handspun, the knot count can’t be high on the carpet.

Ghazni Wool Afghan Rug
Heriz Rug Woven with Ghazni Wool – Notable by its Abrash Effect

See Ghazni Handspun Wool Rugs Gallery

2. Merino Wool

Merino wool, also known as Pakistani wool, is a type of sheep wool commonly used in Afghan rugs. Merino wool yarn is machine spun-yarn, so it absorbs all the dyes meaning it doesn’t have the Abrash effect. Merino wool goes through a unique process to become soft and silky-shiny but doesn’t have Ghazni wool’s durability.

Merino Wool Rug
Merino Wool Rug

3. Belgian Wool

Belgian wool is high-quality wool imported to Afghanistan from Belgium. It has all four impotent characteristics: softness, silky-shiny, lightweight, and durability. It also allows artisans to weave rugs with a high knot count per square inch, adding to the rug’s quality. Belgian-wool yarn absorbs dyes perfectly, so it doesn’t have an Abrash effect. In recent years it has become popular to use this wool in Afghan hand-woven rugs. However, Belgian wool rugs are the most expensive. 

Reza Mahi Handmade Area Rug
Belgian Wool Rug

So, to make things easy for you here, I have simplified the characteristics of these types of wool.

Wool TypeSoftSilky ShinyLight WeightDurabilitySpinning TechniqueAbrash Effect
Ghazni WoolNoNoNoLong TermHand SpunYes
Merino WoolYesYesYes10 YearsMachine spunNo
Belgian WoolYesYesYesLong TermMachine spunNo

Types of afghan rug

Afghan rugs can be categorized based on carpet pattern, weaving technic, and material. At the highest level, we have handmade rugs & carpets and handmade flatweave kilims. Then we have modern rugs and traditional tribal rugs and finally, we have categorizations based on design.

You an see all of our Afghan rugs stock categorized by design here [click here].

Frequently Asked Questions

Why are Afghan rugs so expensive?

We can divide Afghan handmade rugs’ total production cost into two parts: labor cost and material cost.
Labor cost: While the argument of low wages of Afghan carpet weavers is still going on, the labor cost is an essential fraction of Afghan rugs’ price. To give you an idea, one artisan can weave up to one square meter in a month, meaning that an artisan must receive a month’s wage for each square meter.
Material Cost: Depending on the type of wool, the price of rugs differs. For instance, Merino wool is 1/3 price of Belgian wool. Organic materials like wool and vegetable dyes used in Afghan rugs are expensive. 
There are also indirect and nonvalue-adding costs associated with Afghan rugs. You can learn more about it in this blog post. (learn more)

Through time I try to enhance this article add new points, or remove unnecessary details. If you have any questions or think something has not been appropriately explained, please let me know in the comment.

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